Plus 14 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!

Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!


Pick of the Week

The Breadwinner

The BreadwinnerWhat is it? A young girl is forced to pretend she’s a boy in order to subvert Taliban rules.

Why see it? The folks behind Song of the Sea and The Secret of the Kells return with their best film yet as it tackles real world tragedy with beauty, hope, and wit. The animation and music are lush and entrancing, but the film’s power is in its story of heartbreak and love. It presents the Taliban’s actions as cruel and unjust, but the film pairs it with positive aspects of the people’s faith too including how stories passed down through generations can be used both as learning tools and inspiration. There’s no artificial happy ending here, but the journey and conclusion satisfy both dramatically and emotionally.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]


The Best

120 Beats Per Minute (BPM)

BpmWhat is it? An advocacy group fights for recognition and action in the fight against AIDS

Why see it? There have been more than a few high profile films about the AIDS epidemic with titles like Philadelphia, And the Band Played On, and An Early Frost exploring tales both intimate and grand. This French entry is one of last year’s best films, and it manages both by telling a very personal story against the bigger backdrop of ACT UP’s efforts to get a response from both pharmaceutical companies and the French government. It’s touching, humorous, and devastating, and it’s an experience worth seeking out.

[DVD extras: None?]

The Dark Crystal – Anniversary Edition Digibook

The Dark CrystalWhat is it? A young muppet must fulfill a prophecy to save the world from eternal darkness.

Why see it? Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and friends are best known for far lighter fare, but this puppet-filled gem remains one of their greatest creations and stands as a kids movie classic. The imagination and creativity on display are endless, and the film finds vast scope despite being populated by puppets. At turns exciting, terrifying, goofy, and awe-inspiring, it’s the kind of movie kids don’t get anymore as CG and easier storylines have become the norm. This new digibook Blu-ray features production photos, and the disc includes numerous special features exploring behind the scenes to show how the world was created and brought to life. If you don’t already own this one it should be a blind buy.

[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary, documentary]

A Fistful of Dynamite [KL Studio Classics]

A Fistful Of DynamiteWhat is it? Two criminals meet in Mexico with explosive results.

Why see it? Sergio Leone’s final western may lack the harsh drama and serious death-dealing of the likes of The Good the Bad the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, but it packs plenty of big characters and bigger action into its two and a half hour running time. Rod Steiger plays a Mexican (?) stagecoach robber, and James Coburn rides in as an Irish explosives expert, and the pair have a ridiculous amount of fun bringing the fight to “the man” and causing as much carnage as possible. Ennio Morricone’s score adds to the experience as is typical of his compositions, and Kino Lorber’s new Blu adds more after the credits roll a pair of commentaries and featurettes exploring the film, the players, and the restoration.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes, image galleries]

The Strangers [Scream Factory]

The StrangersWhat is it? A couple is terrorized by a trio of visitors they’ve never met before.

Why see it? Bryan Bertino’s home invasion thriller remains both a terrifying modern classic and a slighter lesser Them — the French thriller that preceded this one and is well worth seeking out — but either way it’s a title worth having in your library for scaring friends and family on movie night. Yes it includes a cliched scene I hate with the passion of 400 suns, but the whole survives as a truly unsettling feature. The film relies on atmosphere and quiet terror rather than the usual music stingers telling us when to be scared. Scream Factory’s new release includes two versions of the film along with other extras including a brand new interview with Bertino.

[Blu-ray extras: Theatrical and unrated cuts, interviews, deleted scenes, interviews]

Topaze [KL Studio Classics]

TopazeWhat is it? An atypical professor complicates the lives of everyone around him.

Why see it? John Barrymore is the titular Professor Topaze, and he’s a delight of idiosyncratic behavior and observations. The film moves him through some twisty interactions with the wealthy and morally corrupt, but the centerpiece remains a sharp sense of humor visible in both his actions and the dialogue between them all. Myrna Loy joins the fun as a rich man’s mistress who catches Topaze’s eye and adds some romantic antics into the mix. It’s a fun watch.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]


The Rest

Con Man

Con ManWhat is it? The true story of a liar.

Why see it? Barry Minkow was just 16 years old when he started his carpet cleaning business, but within just a few months he was already cutting corners and lying to customers. Within a few years he defrauding investors to the tune of millions of dollars. It’s a familiar tale, and the film does little to distinguish it from the pack as it blends narrative and talking heads to tell the story. Some familiar faces show up in minor roles including Mark Hamill, James Caan, and Ving Rhames, but they’re not around enough to elevate it all anywhere near Catch Me If You Can territory. Part of the problem is the film’s intended audience of nice, faithful-friendly viewers which leaves the movie feeling sanitized.

[DVD extras: None]

Faces Places

Faces PlacesWhat is it? Legendary filmmaker Agnes Varda hits the road with a younger man to meet and celebrate the ordinary people around us.

Why see it? The documentary, co-directed by Varda and JR, was nominated for an Oscar this year, and while it didn’t win the film remains an engaging look at people and their relationship with media. In addition to their conversations, the film sees the pair creating oversized photos of the people’s faces, and in those blown-up portraits every detail comes clear. It’s an insight into both how people look and how people look.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Gintama

GintamaWhat is it? Years after an alien force has taken over a city a budding resistance finds a goofy-ass hero.

Why see it? This Japanese romp is utterly bonkers and yes, of course it’s adapted from a manga. The film has the feel of Scott Pilgrim but with energy, effects, and fourth-wall breaks to spare. The downside is that the film lacks a coherent main narrative with relatable characters, but on the plus side it’s enormously entertaining for viewers who can stomach the pure ridiculousness of animal-headed aliens, giant dogs, and a refusal to take anything seriously. The effects run the gamut from impressive to amateurish, but if you’re in the right mindset it’s a fun, energetic, and creative spectacle.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Lady Bird

Lady BirdWhat is it? A teenager’s final year of high school in Sacramento sees some ups and downs.

Why see it? Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a sweetly funny film, and while it may not be “Best Picture” material it certainly entertains with honest, humorous observations. Its biggest draw is found in the performances with both Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalfe as her mother delivering strong, captivating, and frequently funny performances. The story as a whole is lightweight, deceptively so given its acclaim, but there’s value in seeing a teenage girl’s story — essentially Gerwig’s own in many ways — brought to life onscreen.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]

The Man Who Invented Christmas

The Man Who Invented ChristmasWhat is it? The story behind the story of Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol.

Why see it? Biographical films come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re not always about people and moments you’d expect. Dickens is incredibly well-known, as is his story about Scrooge, and this film offers a perfectly adequate look at the possible inspirations behind it. Dan Stevens takes the lead as Dickens, and he brings some charisma to the role alongside veterans like Christopher Plummer and Jonathan Pryce. The film also finds some fun with ghostly touches, but unlike something like Finding Neverland — a film about JM Barrie’s creation of Peter Pan — there’s no added weight to be found here meaning the end result is something of a harmless trifle.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

My Friend Dahmer

My Friend DahmerWhat is it? A teenage Jeffrey Dahmer is befriended by others unaware of his growing darkness.

Why see it? The film works as both a biopic of a young Dahmer struggling to fit in with his high school classmates while also dealing with dark urges and an exploration of friendship in the face of uncertainty. There are some thriller-like elements towards the end, but the film’s focus is instead on the humanity of teens trying to find themselves and find strength in those around them. Based on a graphic novel by someone who actually befriended Dahmer briefly in high school, it’s an engaging look at a future serial killer. It raises interesting questions too regarding how set his future was — had his teen years fared differently, would he still have ended up killing and eating dozens of victims? Probably, but in this time period at least, he’s every bit as human and awkward-feeling as the rest of us.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]

The Orchard End Murder

The Orchard End MurderWhat is it? A woman is murdered, and a man is responsible.

Why see it? This UK flick is something of an oddity due as much to its running time as to its content. At only 49 minutes in length the film doesn’t find the time to explore the characters and motivations as you’d expect,and to that end it’s not presented as a mystery or thriller — we know who did it, and others find out soon enough too. Instead, it intrigues through its presentation that feels at times like a salacious exploration of morality and intent. It’s an interesting short film, and Redemption has paired it with another interesting short in the documentary “The Showman” which chronicles the antics of a carnival maestro whose behaviors mirror exactly what you expect of people in his once seedy line of work.

[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, documentary]

Scorched Earth

Scorched EarthWhat is it? An outlaw roams a post-apocalyptic earth where loyalty is as poisoned as the air they breathe.

Why see it? I’m not sure if filmmakers don’t know what to do with her or if Gina Carano has just lost interest/ability as a fighter, but no one’s been able to use her as well as Steven Soderbergh did in the action gem Haywire. She stars here as a loner who finds her interests challenged, and once again she’s relied upon for acting and gun play rather than ass-kicking. It’s a shame, not only because she still can’t act well but also because she was such a great ass-kicker in Haywire! What we get instead is a fairly generic action pic that exists rather than excites.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Wonder Wheel

Wonder WheelWhat is it? Four people see their lives intersecting in 1950s Brooklyn.

Why see it? Woody Allen’s latest is something of a mixed bag — fairly common for the filmmaker — as familiar character work plays against some attractive period backdrops. Kate Winslet and Jim Belushi play a married couple in subtle turmoil, Juno Temple stars as his long lost daughter, and Justin Timberlake narrates as a lifeguard having an affair with Winslet’s unhappy woman. More drama than comedy, neither effort works all that well as the characters fail to generate heat or interest. It doesn’t help that Timberlake’s dramatic chops are still mostly non-existent, but bigger fault rests obviously with Allen’s script.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]


Also out this week:

The Cat O’Nine Tails [Arrow Video], The Clapper, Curse of the Mayans, Fangs of the Living Dead [Scream Factory], Novitiate, The Paris Opera, Trophy

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